First Drive: 2017 Mercedes-AMG SL63

– Newport Coast, California

At the Pelican Hill resort, I sat behind the driver’s seat of the 2017 Mercedes-AMG SL63 in a darkened room, watching a preview of our drive route projected on a screen in front of the car. After the video ended, the assembled motoring press were instructed to start our engines. In a dramatic moment, a dozen or so engines roared to life in a cacophony of mechanical vigor. The SL63’s distinctly German throttle blip upon startup let me know that it was eager to play. Doors opened, and we drove out of what happened to be a well-staged parking garage and into the Southern California sunshine.

Out in the light, the Mercedes looks impressive. The front end, in particular, is a major aesthetic improvement. The new shape of the grille looks more youthful and sportier, while the air intakes are more visually interesting. The chrome lines are done tastefully. The attractive LED headlights are browed with strips of more LEDs. The contours of the hood play with the natural light in an entertaining way. In the rear, the eyes are drawn to the dual exhaust integrated into the diffuser. The car’s proportions are sporty, with the long hood pointing the way forward. Even with the top up, the SL63 has an elegantly athletic silhouette.

The lengthy drive route stretched from Newport Coast south to Coronado Island along a wide variety of roads. This trip led us down the coastal highway, through inland towns both large and small, through some serious curves on two-lane m...